Physiotherapy or “physical therapy” is the form of health care which helps a person recover and restore their normal muscular and cellular functioning, through exercises of the mind and body. It may be preventive, therapeutic, curative, or rehabilitative.
Elderly people suffer from a variety of problems stemming from their slowly deteriorating function of muscle, bone, and cells due to age. Geriatric physiotherapy covers a wide range of topics, from neurological, muscular, skeletal or cardiac. That is why it is considered one of the most challenging fields of medicine.
Elderly persons also suffer from a loss of self-confidence, a memory of their younger days which brings frustration and lack of motivation when they are unable to perform certain tasks that would have seemed easy some years earlier. Being able to deal with all these problems also poses a challenge to the physiotherapist.
Along with old age comes a range of diseases such as mental disorders (Alzheimer’s, dementia), joint deterioration, arthritis and osteoporosis, and others.
Physiotherapy works on the fact that constant use and strengthening will be able to slow down; if not stop; the process of muscle and bone deterioration, and improve healing in case of any injuries or diseases. Exercising causes more blood flow to your cells, therefore, encouraging faster healing and growth, although at a slower rate than a younger person.
More severe the condition, smaller the goals should be. Reward short improvements such as being able to lift the arms at a 60-degree angle as opposed to a 30-degree angle earlier. This will boost the person’s morale and spur them on to doing better.
Physio for the elderly includes:
1. Lunge walking: Although not as intense as a regular lunge walk, an easy version of this exercise will involve wide deliberate steps to be taken in a straight line, with the hands placed on the hips. This stretches the leg muscles and improves coordination and balance. For older people suffering from mental disorders that result in loss of coordination and muscle, weakness, this exercise greatly helps.
2. Tai-chi: It is a form of martial arts that involves slow and concentrated movements to direct better energy flow through the body. It is an excellent exercise for the elderly, injured or disabled persons. Joining a tai-chi class will also allow the elderly person to meet others like them and encourage them to make friends and not feel isolated with their condition.
3. Sitting exercises: Many elderlies may be unable to use their legs and, in this case, there is a wide range of sitting exercises that can be done with the legs, hands, and head. With the assistance of a qualified physiotherapist, these exercises may be supplemented with elastic bands, ropes, balls or weights.